Anyone from the fresh produce industry who walked the show floor at Pack Expo 2012 on Oct. 28-31 in Chicago had to have noticed it — two of the biggest buzz words for packaging innovations are “flexibility” and “sustainability.”

In a nutshell, people want packaging with more convenience and less waste.

Increasingly, produce is finding homes in packaging not only more environmentally friendly — meaning, in many cases, recloseable or resealable as well as reusable and recyclable — but also more versatile and visually appealing.

Fresh produce packaging companies are answering that call for increased value and convenience.

Resealability and easy-to-open/close are the two most important packaging features consumers demand now, according to the “2012 Food and Beverage Packaging Trends in the U.S.: Consumer Viewpoints and Marketer Opportunities” report from Packaged Facts.

Kari Dawson-Ekeland, director of marketing for Sealed Air/Cryovac, who is based in the company’s Duncan, S.C., office, said she is seeing “more demand for portioning and portability ... because not everybody (in the family) eats fresh produce at the same time.”

That’s why the multi-seal, fold-lock packaging — for the cheese market — Sealed Air launched at Pack Expo this year might wind up being adapted for the fresh produce segment, Dawson-Ekeland said.

Portability, specifically “lunches, eating on the go in the car and after sporting events,” has become huge for fresh produce, Dawson-Ekeland said, noting that snackers “like things quick and simple.”

That works hand-in-hand with portioning, as smaller, snack-sized portions give consumers more flexibility.

Green convenience

Clear Lam Packaging’s PrimaPak, launched at Pack Expo, is another example of how companies are addressing convenience in new packaging for fresh produce.

The Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based developer and manufacturer of engineered flexible and rigid packaging materials has a replacement for rigid containers that’s produced on a vertical form-fill seal machine.

PrimaPak is not only convenient for consumers but also retailers and other handlers.

“The key is that it stacks. This is a killer product that offers massing weight savings,” said group president/chief marketing officer Roman Forowycz. “It is produced from a single roll of film and incorporates a recloseable Peel and ReSeal Lidding Film for added consumer convenience.”

The Clear Lam Peel and ReSeal Lidding Film, is designed especially with value-added fresh produce in mind, which makes sense, considering prepared vegetable sales are up 35% and fresh-cut fruit sales have surged 23% since 2005, according to a 2010 Perishables Group study.

Forowycz said Clear Lam is committed to satisfying the fresh produce industry’s call for more green packaging options, which is in line with world packaging demand.

In fact, packaging with recycled content, is reusable and/or degradable, is projected to increase about 6% annually to reach $212 billion overall by 2015, according to Clear Lam.